Sierra Leone
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President Bio must allow families of those shot dead by police on August 10th to bury their loved ones

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 October 2022:

There are calls tonight for president Bio of Sierra Leone to respect the rights and wishes of dozens of families to bury their loved ones, shot dead in state-orchestrated executions by the country’s security forces during the August 10th street demonstrations in Freetown and various northern districts.

Since the killing of the 26 unarmed protesters, the government has ignored calls for post mortems and inquests to determine cause of death of each of the deceased, many of whom the Sierra Leone Telegraph has been reliably informed, sustained gunshot wounds to the chest, back of the head, and stomach.

The victims include Evangelist Samson (Photo), the main opposition APC party’s social media activist who was shot dead in Makeni by the military, who the authorities say died in a cross fire between a group of armed youths and soldiers.

But local witnesses have denied the official statement published by the police about the killing of Evangelist Samson. Witnesses say he was picked up by soldiers and taken to a remote area where he was executed.

There are reports of some of the victims as young as twelve, among the dead – yet to be identified at the mortuary in Freetown by their families.

Yesterday, FreetownStories media published the following report:

“It is still not clear why government officials are refusing to speak on the status of the over 20 corpses of civilians who have been at the Connaught Hospital Mortuary since August 10th.

“Yesterday, my colleague Mohamed Konneh reported that the families were informed that they will be buried today and were given NLe20 thousand which is around US$1 thousand. Some of them refused to take the money and requested for the corpses of their relatives to be handed over to them.

“There is still no official statement from the government on whether they have been buried today or when or where they will be buried.

“There was no notice inviting the media to the ceremony yesterday at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and both the Minister of Information, Mohamed Rahman Swaray and the Minister of Internal Affairs, David Panda Noah have not been responding to my questions about this issue since yesterday.

“I have met with families who narrated how their relatives were killed at their homes and one of them is a lady at Kissy, Thunder Hill, she was to get married in September and since August the family couldn’t get the body to give her a befitting funeral.

“It is very clear that some of these people weren’t involved in the protest, they were either caught by a stray bullet or were allegedly shot dead.

“Our compatriots and their families shouldn’t be treated this way, they deserve some respect and care from the State.”

It is being rumoured also that the 26 civilians shot dead on the 10th of August 2022 will be buried in an undisclosed mass grave tomorrow Monday, 17th of October, 2022, following the government’s payment of twenty million Leones to each of the families of the deceased.

The editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph contacted various government officials to obtain a statement but without success.

This is what the Chairman and Leader of the opposition National Grand Coalition (NGC) Party – Dr Dennis Bright told the Sierra Leone Telegraph:

“I understand that the payment of Le20m for those killed by the Sierra Leone Police on 10th August 2023, will not be paid directly to the families, but merely the cost per victim to bury them in a mass grave.

“My first concern therefore is to establish exactly what the payments represent and to be assured by the Government, that if made, these payments will be made directly to the families, so they can bury their relatives themselves. These families do not need their loved ones to be buried in an undignified manner.

“Secondly, I would also like to understand why the Government now wishes to make these payments, when they maintain that the protesters are terrorists. Is this a recognition by government of wrongdoing? Why the needless loss of life of our compatriots, and why have their bodies been withheld at mortuary until now?

“Thirdly, I understand that the families of each of the policer officers who died on 10 August 2022, received payments of Le100m. There needs to be transparency, not only about how the government determines these payments, but also the families of both the police officers and the protesters need transparency and accountability. There needs to be a full post-mortem conducted on all the victims to establish exact cause of death, so that we can determine the truth of exactly what happened on that fateful day. The government has a responsibility to all bereaved families to do this.”